A Private Function

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A Private Function
A Private Function.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMalcolm Mowbray
Written byAlan Bennett
Malcolm Mowbray
Produced byGeorge Harrison
Denis O'Brien
Mark Shivas
CinematographyTony Pierce-Roberts
Edited byBarrie Vince
Music byJohn Du Prez
Release date
  • November 9, 1984 (1984-11-09) (United Kingdom)
Running time
94 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budget£1.2 million
Box office$2,527,088 [1]

A Private Function is a 1984 British comedy film starring Michael Palin and Maggie Smith. The film was predominantly filmed in Ilkley, Ben Rhydding and Barnoldswick in the West Riding of Yorkshire.[2] The film was screened in the section of Un Certain Regard at the May 1985 Cannes Film Festival.[3] Following the release, the film topped the box office for the next two weekends in the United Kingdom.[4][5]


In a small town in Northern England in 1947, the citizens endure continuing food rationing. Some local businessmen want to hold a party to celebrate the royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth to Prince Philip, and illegally decide to raise a pig for that occasion. However, the pig gets stolen by Gilbert Chilvers (Michael Palin) who was encouraged to do so by his wife Joyce (Maggie Smith).

Meanwhile, a food inspector is determined to stop activities circumventing the food rationing.



Three pigs were used in the filming of A Private Function all named Betty. Producer Mark Shivas was advised by Intellectual Animals UK that the pigs used should be female and six months old so as to not be too large or aggressive. However, the pigs were “unpredictable and often quite dangerous”. During filming of one of the kitchen scenes, Maggie Smith was hemmed in by one of the pigs and needed to vault over the back of it in order to escape.[6]


On Sneak Previews both Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert gave the movie two thumbs up. They called it one “really funny movie” and one “flat out winner.” Siskel said it “had perfectly believable characters” and Ebert said “just beneath this veneer of respectability is utter madness.”[7]

Box Office[edit]

The film made £1,560,000 in the United Kingdom.[8]


The film won three BAFTA Film Awards: Best Actress for Maggie Smith, Best Supporting Actress for Liz Smith and Best Supporting Actor, for Denholm Elliott. It was also nominated for Best Original Screenplay (Alan Bennett) and Best Film.

Musical adaptation[edit]

A musical based on the film opened in the West End in April 2011, under the new title, Betty Blue Eyes. It was produced by Cameron Mackintosh and ran for several months at the Novello Theatre. It starred Reece Shearsmith (of The League of Gentlemen fame) as Gilbert, and actress Sarah Lancashire as Joyce.[9]


  1. ^ "A Private Function". boxofficemojo.com. 1985. Retrieved 28 January 2021.
  2. ^ Earnshaw, Tony; Jim Moran (2008). Made in Yorkshire (PDF). Guerilla Books. ISBN 978-0-9554943-1-4. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 August 2008. Retrieved 28 June 2009.
  3. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Quilombo". festival-cannes.com. 1985. Retrieved 28 June 2009.
  4. ^ "Historical U.K. Weekend Box Office *9th November 1984 - 11th November 1984". www.25thframe.co.uk. Retrieved 29 August 2020.
  5. ^ "Historical U.K. Weekend Box Office *16th November 1984 - 18th November 1984". www.25thframe.co.uk. Retrieved 29 August 2020.
  6. ^ Clarke, Roger (25 April 2008). "Story Of The Scene: 'A Private Function', Malcolm Mowbray, 1984". The Independent. Retrieved 28 June 2009.
  7. ^ "Heartbreaker, The Hit, Alamo Bay, A Private Function, 1985". Siskel and Ebert Movie Reviews. 5 February 2019. Retrieved 17 April 2020.
  8. ^ "Back to the Future: The Fall and Rise of the British Film Industry in the 1980s - An Information Briefing" (PDF). British Film Institute. 2005. p. 27.
  9. ^ "Alan Bennett's 'A Private Function' hits the stage". telegraph.co.uk. 13 April 2011. Retrieved 7 October 2020.

External links[edit]